When I was a girl, I suffered from a medical condition that made it impossible for me to maintain control of my bladder. I had a major surgery just before my tenth birthday that corrected this issue, but up until then, I was tortured by classmates and neighbors. I was less than ten years old, and I vividly remember one neighbor picking up a rusty nail from a parking area across the street from our homes and suggesting that “we shove this up there so you can stop peeing your pants”. I remember the taunts of “Christy Pissty”. I remember being isolated, depressed, ashamed. This is what children did to me. Children that were seven or eight years old did this to me.
Where did they learn that hatred and violence?
In the fifth grade, after the surgery and the pant-wetting had stopped, there was this girl, Tammy, (her name is not changed to protect her identity, because she was a fucking terrible person then and she doesn’t deserve my protection). (Also, I may be spelling her name wrong, but I have no desire to remember the correct spelling of the names of those who tortured me.) Tammy was friends with Shawn. Shawn had been my friend for many years, because our parents were friends and we grew up together. Tammy had the strange idea that three persons cannot be friends together. I’ve never understood this whole “best friend” thing, and feel like there is more than enough love to spread around. Lots of girls somehow get an impression that this cannot be true, and that they need to secure the best friend status of one other, and eliminate any competition.
Tammy convinced Shawn to run from me on the playground. Tammy took the time to create hand drawn cards for both Shawn and I, and then to deliver the whole cards to Shawn through the Kindergarten “mail” that was teaching them how to address letters. I received a very large package through the Kindergarten mail service. Everyone crowded around to see what I had been sent. It was the cards, identical to Shawn’s, ripped into tiny pieces—a pile of hatred on display for everyone in the room. Everyone laughed and taunted me.
Where did she learn this hatred and violence?
In high school, I became a nomad of sorts. I didn’t connect with a single group of peers, because I had grown to mistrust people. (Shocking.) But I still wanted friends, obviously. And many people failed me in this stage as well. I would hang out with a group of boys that were nice and fun to be around, so people called me a slut. I still had the influence of Tammy. One Sunday night, I waited by the cold, drafty window that faced the street for my friends to pick me up to go out. They never arrived. “There wasn’t enough room in the car” was the reason that Shawn gave. But they abandoned me, without a word. Shawn felt the guilt and told me the excuse, but the rest didn’t seem to care. And somehow I had been singled out as the one who wouldn’t go along. I was the one crying tears of pain and loss and confusion all night.
Where did they learn this hatred and violence?
I thought college would be my respite. New friends. New opportunities. It was going to be new and different and better. And it was for a few months, until I started to have memories of childhood sexual abuse. I confided in a few people. Those people told other people. Those people asked friends of my abuser if he had abused me. They asked him. He said no. (Shocking.) And I was immediately called a liar and a fraud and all sorts of other things. I was once more isolated and shamed and abandoned. I had failed my way out of college by the 3rd semester. Not only was I finding it very difficult to find and maintain healthy relationships, but the lack of support made the weight of dealing with the memories and nightmares heavy enough to break me.
Where did they learn this hatred and violence?
I proceeded to live out my pain. Drinking, sex, drugs, harboring runaways, and finally marrying a man who was violently abusive. He never hurt me while we were dating. It wasn’t until a month after our wedding that I was first physically smacked—backhanded in the kitchen while I washed dishes. But the ways that he harmed me weren’t just physical. Cycles of abuse include manipulations that most cannot imagine. It is more akin to a cult than a relationship. Isolate, degrade, shame, and then, once control has been gained, violence against your person. Getting pregnant gave me the reason I needed to leave. I would have stayed until I died, I suppose, were it not for the fear that my child would learn to be like me, or like him.
After I left him, I continued on the path of addiction and struggle, even getting involved in a less violent, but just as controlling and unhealthy, relationship. But even after I left this second relationship, and I worked to regain control of my own life, and to find some peace and some safety and some stability, people kept being bullies. Church friends would judge me. Family would challenge me. Poverty became a reason to treat me poorly, and being a single parent became a reason to shame me. There was always someone, somewhere actively working to harm and humiliate. There was never a place where I was safe from harm. I was always attacked, in some form.
Where did they learn this hatred and violence?
I’ve gotten to a point where I can mediate between the world and my heart in more effective ways. I’ve been in therapy and on medication for a few years now, following my diagnosis of PTSD. I’m learning to care less about the things others say and do. I’m learning to find self-compassion and self-definition, instead of relying on others to tell me who I am and what I am worth.
I still have the occasional bully in my sphere. It is difficult to get rid of them altogether. There are so many who are pursuing their self-interest at the expense of all others. There are so many who are looking at their decisions only from their perspective, and ignoring the impact that exists beyond their own interests.
Where did they learn this hatred and violence?
And it is hatred and violence to ignore the plight of others in order to gain more money or status or freedom or stuff for yourself. It is hatred and violence to isolate, to shame, to deny equal rights, to deny basic human rights, and to ignore the pain of others.
I was raised in a conservative religious setting, and I obtained two seminary degrees, so I often default to the bible when I look to quote something that expresses the ways that actions are rooted in hatred and violence. The Good Samaritan parable of the enemy of the harmed caring for him when his own religion and state and race abandoned him to death is one of those very easily quoted parables. Your own interests are not good excuses for not caring for others is the basic lesson in that story. But there are also many passages that talk about putting first the interests of the poor and the refugee and the sick and the imprisoned and a host of others who may be marginalized. There are also many that speak to the judgment that will come down upon those who do not have love as the basis of their actions.
I often find it ironic and sad that the place where I grew up, and the people I know from my history, were often so filled with hatred and violence while they assumed they were in the role of the good Samaritan. They thought they were the hero in the story. But they were not and are not. They are the villains. They are the bullies.
Since the election the other day, there have been numerous reports of hatred and violence. Swastikas and n-words and the simple moniker “Trump” have been graffitied everywhere from the sides of cars to the doors of prayer rooms. Muslim women have stopped the religious practice of wearing burqa or hijab out of fear. Children are taunting other children, with deportation or isolation or death being named as the fate of brown and black and Muslim students.
Where did they learn this hatred and violence?
They learned it by watching a bully become the president-elect of their country. They learned it from the rhetoric they hear in the news and around the dinner table. They learned it by watching the adults in this country make the grave error of choosing a man who spouts hatred and incites violence at every turn as their leader. They learned it by living in a society that places self-interest above the health and vitality of the society. We would rather burn with big screens than live peacefully with one another and share resources.
Donald Trump is the Tammy of my current situation.
The threat to end healthcare for millions is a real threat for me. I am chronically ill. I qualify for Medicaid under the expansion required by the ACA. I will not have healthcare if that is repealed. And, without the other ACA requirement of insuring people regardless of pre-existing condition, I will likely be uninsurable. I’ve had about 200 appointments and four surgeries this year. I take 18 medications right now. I see between two and seven doctors per week. All of this care keeps me in a state of disability, but a rung or two up the ladder from death. Without this care, I will drop down to the death rung. I die.
Without food stamps, without insurance, without housing assistance, and without disability, I die. Losing any one of them will potentially cause the loss of all others. My life is in danger, because we (and by “we” I mean the electoral college and don’t include myself at all) elected the bully.
When I was left crying that night by the window, left behind by my “friends”, I am relatively certain that all the people present didn’t want me to be abandoned and harmed, but at least one of them did. And by following the lead of that person or persons, friends that had been such for a lifetime were lost. The effects were devastating, and each person who went silently along in that car was responsible for my pain, because they didn’t put an end to that pain.
Taking stock of my life, and seeing the ways that bullies operate, and the ways that their actions affect others, I am trapped in a serious situation once more. After living through all the things that I have lived through, and enduring all the struggle while another profited from my demise, I see clearly the ways that electing a bully will impact the nation. The people who have let this go on, and who have elected a bully, are committing themselves to the ideals of bullying. They are allowing hatred and violence to win the day, and to rule the country.
I need to ask you, are you going to be the boy with a rusty nail, or the Tammy, or the abusive husband, or the manipulator/cult leader/champion for hatred and violence?
My childhood, my teens, my adult life—every moment and every experience—could have been radically different if the people around me had not been conditioned to consider themselves before others, above others, and in control of others. The people around me learned it by watching other people (probably their parents) adopt and embrace individualism and reject care and compassion and empathy for others. Whether you are using the choices one makes or the color of one’s skin as the litmus test for whether you shame and isolate and judge and harm, you are doing harm. By considering only your own interests, you are doing harm. By leading with your fear and reactionary instincts, instead of using facts and thoughtful consideration, you are doing harm. By voting for a bully, you are doing harm.
Where did you learn such hatred and violence?
And why don’t you seek to unlearn hatred and violence and, instead, live in love and peace?
Why do you choose to remain the bully?
15 thoughts on “Bully”
Not from OC or in your grade but went to UC the same time as you and still live the area. I know your Dad and knew your mom. I also know that you could come back to OC and you would be so welcomed by the churches and families that you would never have to worry about bills or groc again. You are choosing to be in the situation your in, either by pride or a sense of being too ‘enlightened’ to live with us Hicks. Well guess what…we are all happy and thriving, and not begging for money and posting sob stories. Get over yourself and get back here and be helped. Otherwise shut up.
I only approved this comment because it so beautifully articulates the ways that bullies treat the marginalized. Shame, accusations, claiming you “know” all sorts of things that you have no idea about. You can easily help people that do not live in your town and do not attend your church. But the churches there did very little to help me when I was there. Once I couldn’t even get them to pay for a winter coat, while I went back to college, and studied theology, because they weren’t sure I could be trusted with cash. I always worried about bills and groceries there too. I am not welcomed. My ideas are not welcomed. My appearance is often not welcomed. My daughter was not welcomed. She was told to shut up or be ostracized by her peers–by her 5th grade teacher!! You know nothing “Guy Whoknowsbetter”. You certainly don’t know better. Of course, my dad would always welcome me home, but he understands how unhappy and unhelped I am in that area. I have about 30 specialized care providers here. I have access to studies and medications that I would not have in that area. I have friends who love and care for and understand me here. I have a pending disability case here, which means that I cannot move to another state. I’ve been waiting almost 27 months for my court date. I’m not starting over now. I ask for assistance, and your retort is “shut up”? Yes, you have proved my points so well, I barely needed write the post. I could have just polled my facebook “friends” about what they think of me and my choices, it seems. I am one of the most grateful people, and though saying so seems to deny it, I am very humble. I have very little pride. If I were so prideful, I wouldn’t be asking for assistance at all, or admitting the ways that I have been harmed and shamed and humiliated over the course of my lifetime. I am probably more enlightened than you, but that isn’t why I don’t want to come back. It is because you are mean to me for being who and how I am. You are a bully.
As much as I want to react to this negatively, I know it is just your conservative, rural mindset making you feel as though we are choosing to exist in a life of poverty. As long as I can remember, our lives were constricted by money. As a young child that’s even harder to comprehend. Even as we were being held in the “loving, generous, accepting” arms of the Northwest Iowan community, we were impoverished. My grandparents paid for my private, Christian education because they (and the rest of their community) believed it was necessary for me to receive religious education in order to be accepted; where my 5th grade teacher told me I needed to stop voicing my opinions at recess, or I would ostracize myself from my classmates. In reality I was educating my classmates on social issues; on how President Obama is Pro-Choice, not that he’s running around letting people kill babies for fun. But, what more could you expect from a conservative, rural 5th grader, whose parents most likely identified as Republican, and hear nonstop Dinner Table Discussions about how terrible Obama has been for this country? We do not put ourselves in a position of poverty by choice, because we are lazy, because we refuse to move “home” and let such an “accepting” community save us from this poverty we experience. We experience this poverty because Northwest Iowans (along with the majority of rural, white, uneducated persons, and a select few Southern Conservatives) elect officials that won’t raise minimum wage, that will cease to fund government assistance, that will deport the literal backbone of this country (and force them to build a wall to keep them from ever coming back), that will repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, and treat women like they are disposable, rape-able, unequal, and inferior to their male counterparts. This is the America the electoral college has chosen to live in. So, please tell me how “choosing” not to live in poverty that has been apparent throughout my entire life, will make my life any less poverty-stricken?
Meanwhile, us dumb, uneducated, rural, white, deplorables are living here in NW IA, working good jobs, living in nice houses, sending our kids to good schools, enjoying community, reaching out to single-moms in our community and fixing up there houses and cars with donated money , I see a very inclusive, loving atmosphere in our little communities, (no church attendance required)…..boy we are a screwed up mess. We should all become liberal progressives and quit our jobs, move to the inner city, march in the streets, block traffic, destroy property, beat up anybody we see that believes differently from us. All sarcasm aside, looking at the state of your current situation as compared to even the lowest income people in our communities in NWIA, I struggle to see how you have it all figured out and all of us “uneducated” folks out here in rural America are a scourge on society. You are good at picking out the faults in people and dwelling on real or perceived slights. Might be time to look in the mirror, you have a support system ready to help that most of your neighbors in Chi would die for. Nobody can help if you won’t help yourself. Instead of throwing stones at people who are thriving and loving each other in our communities over here where you’re from….it might be time to turn that high-powered perception inward. That’s my final thought, I’ll be praying for you.
These constant attempts to victim blame and demand that your community is great when others have pointed out its challenges, they are abusive tactics used by bullies. You are not proving your kind and accepting ways with these comments. You are proving me and my daughter right. So, think what you will, but we spend tons of time reflecting, engaged in critical thinking, and working hard to create our best possible lives. Being harmed, accused, belittled, and judged by you does not make us incorrect or unaware. It just confirms you are oppressive, not loving. A bully, perhaps? There is no dwelling on slights here. There is anecdotal evidence of a problem in society … ALL of society, not just NWIA … and we seek to bring light to the dark places and to make that problem evident to all. You not wanting to accept or change the problem is not a reflection on our character. And to my daughter: do not let these people with their small hearts define you, my darling. You are so much more than they could ever discern. You are light, you are beauty, you are good, you are peace, and you are promise of a better future. I love you. Keep going. You will know the sweetness of life, because you knew its bitterness first.
Ok, fair enough. I’ll leave you with this. This NWIA bully has read almost your entire blog and it is simply heart-breaking. This NWIA bully knows that your life and soul, as well as the life and soul of every person on earth is supremely important to God. EVERY PERSON, every color, every sexual orientation, rich, poor, EVERYBODY. This NWIA bully is no more or less important than anybody. But, even though we apparently disagree on the solution, this NWIA bully will be praying for you and your daughter, that your situation improves very soon. God bless.
Just to clarify, I’m not perfect either and have done some really stupid stuff. But I KNOW where you came from and who you were raised by. You would be welcomed back in OC and taken complete care of. Why you choose (and is MOST certainly is a choice) to live in poverty in that Cesspool is a complete mystery to me. Pisses me off really. And then you have the balls to bash your hometown conservative evangelicals who would drop their lives and bend over backwards to help you regardless of your past. Pride is a horrible thing, and you are suffering solely because of yours.
If it’s true that your Dad’s church (still Calvary? not sure) wasn’t willing to help when you were back here because of your appearance or beliefs, that is absolutely pathetic. That is totally against the most basic tenants of Christianity. Still, knowing your Dad, I can hardly believe he’s lying back and letting you starve on West Chicago (of all places in this hemisphere my god) and yes, I’ve been there. Call me skeptical. Anyway, take care, hope your situation improves.
My dad always does as much as he is able to help me, but please don’t imagine that he can meet all of my need. He cannot and should not have to. He cared for my mother, worked, cleaned, cooked, handled all of their business and personal affairs, and still gave generously to his community, church, and extended family. He does not need to be my caregiver. He needs to enjoy whatever opportunities he has left in life. Also, please stop acting as though my home is somehow hellish and terrible. You can’t have been here long if you don’t have love and deep respect for this place and these people. This is my community. It has challenges, but it has tremendous resilience and strength and grace. I love the people on my street. They care for me, protect me, and show me love. You cannot say the same. So please do not vilify this place and these people.
Christy, I have to say that i have a level of, I grew up with you in that same town, same high school, younger than you, but knew your family, not well but have always had a great deal of respect for father and mother alike, and knew your sister better. All this to say that I was there, know some of your reality growing up, and I wanted to let you know that I also remember being treated as an outsider by people I thought were my friends there. It absolutely sucked and it frustrated me to no end. I was made to feel like I was worthless in the world, unless I was at work.
I know that it is difficult to get past those things when they hurt so bad, and it is also then very difficult to engage in seeing the grace in a church that does not prove it to you. I do not wish to attack you or assuming things that I don’t know about. All that said, I found that what these guys did to me was affecting me after they were no longer part of my life, i don’t see them, don’t talk with them, and I don’t engage them in anyway any longer. But I needed to ask them for forgiveness, because I blamed them for things that did not happen for me or did not go right for me. I have never said this to them because I can not reach them, or I they don’t want me to reach them. I needed to do that vocally, we are commanded to forgive by Christ, not to accept it but to forgive it, we are all “broken” in some way, and we have to accept that they are broken too and need us to see that too. Like I said earlier, I am not attacking or saying that I know anything specific to your situation. I pray that all things are okay for you, that you don’t lose what you need, or have any additional struggles moving forward, but I would hope you have the opportunity to find peace with your history. I do pray for you and hope that the Grace of Christ is evident in your life in the ways that fill you.
Thank you. I don’t think that knowing my sister necessarily offers you insight into my life and history. We are very different! 🙂 But I appreciate that you understand the importance of forgiveness in difficult situations where you have been wronged. I have made as much peace with my history as is possible. I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes moving on and letting go impossible in many ways. And I don’t need to pretend that the things I experienced did not happen, or keep them secret, because I have forgiven others. They behaved badly. If they didn’t want others to know it, they should not have done it. We all make mistakes, but being a bully is still not okay or acceptable. It was not then. It is not now. And treating others as insignificant, undeserving of equal rights, and unworthy of care is definitely not acceptable. I believe that some people think I tell my story out of anger or regret. This is not true. I tell it because it relates to important lessons or observations or ideas that I am processing as I write. So, know that I have done and am doing the work of forgiveness and peace, but that I also continue to speak out for justice. I hope that you find opportunities to continue to heal from the wounds you experienced. I wish you all the best!
This person posts a nice supportive comment and you start off your response with something like “knowing my sister doesn’t give you any insight into my life”. Sheesh, who’s the bully? Look in the mirror is right.
What I actually said is this: Thank you. I don’t think that knowing my sister necessarily offers you insight into my life and history. We are very different!🙂 But I appreciate that you understand the importance of forgiveness in difficult situations where you have been wronged.
I very much appreciate the support offered, but my point is that understanding my history and current situation cannot be done through having spent time with my sister. I love my sister dearly. She is an amazing woman. But we have very different lives and viewpoints. I simply wanted to make that clear. It was not a slight, but an explanation.
Thank you Beentherekindof……sorry about my earlier tone, it’s just devastating to me to no end that she is struggling with this and it seems to me that it is needless. Been following her blog for a bit and it is just devastating to read, makes me mad. Either her or the OC community needs to do something. Being a native of NWIA it is beyond my comprehension. To me she is suffering needlessly. Oc churches? Where are you?
I appreciate the shift in tone. Thank you. It’s devastating and needless and makes me mad also. That’s part of why I write the posts–to get that out of my system and on “paper” elsewhere. My blog tagline “letting my traumas speak so they might be silenced” is a very literal statement. This is an outlet that, in general, helps me cope and heal. Not so much this week, but in general. 😉